Controlling game economy through design
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Somatic Apoptosis



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 3:48 pm    Post subject: Controlling game economy through design Reply with quote

Hello, it is my desire to control my game's economy through design, rather then active participation of the admins. My game is currently under development, and focuses heavily on implimenting features which improve the game, irregardless of their difficulty of implimentation (in so long as they are feasible). It is a fantasy MUD with the majority of the game content geared towards max and near-max level characters, with the preceeding levels being easily achieved and designed to teach more advanced gameplay techniques rather then encourage grinding. Player skill is show-cased, character skill takes a back seat. The focus is cooperative play, with the role of PK diminished. Non consentual PK can be avoided, unless doing so would be avoiding the effects of in-character actions.

For simplicity sake I will refer to all forms of currency as gold, and all valuable items carryable for the purpose of reselling them as jewels.

I want to avoid having large reseviors of gold/jewels on a limited number of characters.

I do not care much if lower level characters are substantially poorer, as a low level character being given alot of gold will not unbalance the game for them.

I want to avoid characters wanting to grind, or bot, for gold/jewels. Furthermore, I want to diminish the rewards for grinding or botting and encourage group play in dangerous areas.

Along with temporary stat drain, loss of wealth is used as a penalty for death - but only for max level characters. This loss of wealth is substantial, and currently scaled based off of recent frequency of death, character reputation, and gear worn at time of death [wear nicer stuff, be better known, and pay a higher fee]. Going into serious debt due to being unable to pay the ressurection fee can quickly become disasterous for a character - resulting in powerful mercenaries trying to collect what their employers are owed. Death to these mercenaries is permanent.

Characters should be able to gain wealth through some manner other then hack and slash. I would prefer this to be through something other then simple crafting, as that would tend to create a character-skill oriented game model - something that I am not eschewing entirely, but rather moving away from.

So how can I achieve all the things I have listed here, without causing the game to be about getting more gold?
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You want to emphasis player skill over character skill, and want gold to be earned without grinding or botting?

One solution might be to provide complex/challenging puzzles which which represent in-game crafting activities. Each puzzle you complete could increase the difficulty of the next, up to a daily 'exhaustion' limit based on your character's proficiency. The amount of gold earned (or quality of jewels produced) would also be based on the character's ability.

There would be no real incentive to bot (because you could only do a small number of puzzles each day) and nothing to grind. Because the amount earned would be based on your character's ability, having the appropriate skills would also be important (so you wouldn't have "alt sweatshops" churning small fortunes in gold).

The initial puzzle should be kept simple enough that even an unskilled player can scrape by, while the last daily puzzle should be sufficiently complex that the most skilled players can become comfortably wealthy.

The danger lies in making the puzzles irritating and repetitive. Ideally they should be good fun and highly replayable. If they become a chore, people will rapidly lose interest.
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Somatic Apoptosis



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have come up with a possible answer to my problem. These are my proposed design changes to : let me know what you think.

First, areas which are reliably bottable are simply not very profitable. With my MUD's emphasis on larger tactical situations (ie, invading a dungeun, sieging a castle, etc) simple areas where one can simply find high level mobs standing about waiting for the slaughter are limited. Trying to bot would often result in unwanted aggro, and combat situations too complex to reliably escape from with pure automation.

Second, there are rapidly diminishing returns for killing a single mob spawn repetitively, killing the same types of monster in an area. Players can relieve themselves of this penalty by simply completing some quests, killing a boss monster, etc. [note: I plan to make bosses take a small group, at minimum, to take down and require around a half hour to hour investment of dungeun crawling to get to.]

Third, there is a static hard cap on the amount of gold which can be carried at any time. This number would be sufficient for simple things, but would require bartering for more expensive items (ill give you 50 gold coins, and 10 bars of iron for that breastplate, or.. this magical dagger). My two 'shady character' classes (vagabond & charlatan - tenative name) would have an increase in maximum carryable gold.

Finally, there are three reputable banks where you can store gold (and two other underground foundations willing to hold your coin for you). They each have their own, slightly but significantly variable, rules on how they manage your coin. The common jist is that up until a certain limit you can deposit and withdraw your gold at will, no charge. Gold in excess of that point, you loose daily a percentage due to taxation. The amount you can store until you taxation hits increases rapidly as you approach max level, but is sufficient so that at the lower levels you do not face taxation... but not high enough to make the concept of "gold mules" effective. The level with each organization can be raised (perhaps rates lowered) with difficult to complete quests.

---

On another note, daily limits to easily profitable activities will encourage people to log in every day, which is a good idea I will remember.


Last edited by Somatic Apoptosis on Wed Jul 12, 2006 5:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Alexander Tau



Joined: 15 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 11:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would like to ask a question. Why are you so concerned about the amount of money a player possesses?

For me the object of any game has always been to accumulate enough money to do whatever I wished to do without having to worry about it. I want my 'banks' to provide interest, the very idea that if I have too much in the bank I will start to loose it is somewhat... I do not know the right word perhaps 'rude'.

But if you explained what people can actually do with their money perhaps this would make a bit more sense to me.


A.T
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Somatic Apoptosis



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I have decided that in my game to eliminate the desire to stockpile large quantities of gold, and get them interested in something else - the game itself. I will be going to great lengths to make the game enjoyable in many dimensions, and do not want to see that effort squandered by promoting grind.

Seeing as how gold will be a limiting factor in player death and useable to purchase equipment which would elsewise be difficult to acquire (say as in a rare boss drop). It can be used to bribe NPC's also.

Dont worry, if your interested in getting all the gold there are still things you can do - follow the chains of quests, invest in trying to acquire portable means of wealth which are the least restrictive as far as weight and bulk per equivalent gold, or, should you truly desire to, farming daily to keep your gold over the cap. I do not intend for every high level character to be able to max all this stuff out, but if you make it a priority it can happen.
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Alexander Tau



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Well I have decided that in my game to eliminate the desire to stockpile large quantities of gold, and get them interested in something else - the game itself. I will be going to great lengths to make the game enjoyable in many dimensions, and do not want to see that effort squandered by promoting grind.


That is a worthy goal. The key would be to have enough things to do that players are always involved in the quest for some goal.

To me that says you need to have a lot of 'Big Picture' type things, goals that are not achievable in a day or even a week. I think you are on your way when you talk about co-op play. So many games just rely on the standard 'make more areas' concept it is nice to see someone thinking a big bigger.


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Somatic Apoptosis



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2006 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, I know I am definatly thinking big. I have limited practical "big project" experience, and want to make a game. I am entering into college next semester and want to have this game ready in around 5 years from now, so I can show it to an employer and explain the advanced concepts Ive implimented in it.

Case in point: http://www.skotos.net/articles/dawnof29.shtml

*That* is what Im working towards. Thats what I want to be able to have in my game, working well. NPC's with almost any desire as abstract as 'acquire as much personal political power as possible' and then break that down into a series of independently achievable goals, which will result in fulfilling his desires. I have a few ideas on possible ways to improve on the "basic" model he describes in those articles of mob AI...

Id really, really like players to not be immediatly sure if an admin is in a NPC thats talking to the PC or not!

(in response to the "coding a mud aint easy" comments:) Also, I know its kinda *freakin hard* to do that, but Im smart, its in my chosen field, and working towards a long term goal in achievable steps... or thats what I keep telling myself =D
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Alexander Tau



Joined: 15 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking over that article I see something which sounds really great but is so broad that creating it in toto would be quite the challenge.

The simple verifiable goals are doable, but the bigger ones are really asking a lot. I have made types of NPC that needed to eat, sleep, sit, talk, train, task, play and a couple of others. Just doing those, on a realistic 24 hour cycles took quite a bit of work and a whole lot of support code.

'Start a Religion' kinda boggles my mind, sounds cool but tough with a capital T.


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Somatic Apoptosis



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please read the article I posted ( http://www.skotos.net/articles/dawnof29.shtml ) as it contains an explination of HOW to impliment wants and desires into a mob AI...

I must stress again that I see this as a challange and a long term goal... if it takes me 6 months to code the AI, Ill be glad I can get it done.

I understand everything he says in the article, and know >3/4ths of how I will impliment it, and know how to do so. But there can be no denying that it is Tough.
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Alexander Tau



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh I did read it, and yes it gives some ideas as to How but only the very beginnings. I think you will see that when you sit down and actually start the process.


Additional: I am not being negative about the idea, I am rather fond of AI-driven NPCs.



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Somatic Apoptosis



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the thing is the beginning is the hard part. In order to make this work you have to start with the small things - like 'does this NPC remember where this item is, or is able to detect it now' and 'can he path to it, and how'.

Once you have a library of skills built up which mobs can use to varying degrees, then you can create scripts which force them to behave in varying ways - say you can tell a mob to: constantly buff and attempt to detect nearby foes, then path to the room next to them, and if they are in combat, move in and attack.

From there you can attach varying qualitative importance to those scripts, that is 'groups of commands' (like attacking a child is Illegal and Immoral and Promotes Retribution, unless you are a leader of an orc clan and its a human child, then it has different effects). Each NPC can have different traits which forbid them from taking certain actions - like a Pacifist npc might not retaliate unless he has a very specific reason. A slave npc with a high sense of Loyalty to his Serf might do anything asked of him, unless it contradicts his Morality (which has a higher score then Loyalty in this npc).

From there you can imagine NPC's having not only varying personality aspects, but phobias/dislikes, and desires. Say an NPC has a dislike of Public Disgrace, but a desire for Political Power, but a very low Patience. He would first look through his list of meta-scripts to see which ones have Political Power as a consequence, but not Public Disgrace. If his best option still resulted in Public Disgrace, he would then try to perform the steps which result in Public Disgrace in secrecy.

Or, he could take so long on one step of a plan which resulted in Political Power but not Public Disgrace that his Patience is far exceeded, and then he decides to switch plans to one which results in Political Power and Public Disgrace, because his Patience over-ruled his dislike of Public Disgrace over time. Now, if the plan also resulted in another abstract which he found disagreeable (like Immorality, etc) itd be possible itd take even longer before he decided to innact it, or simply never does.

The key to making this work is a lot of abstraction and bottom-up design. You work from giving the mob simple skills, then tie them together into compound actions, then assign meaning to each of those actions, then allow even further abstraction by building a database of groups of compound actions and tying resulting consequences (possible and certain) to them, and having the mob decide what he wants to achieve... he can then make an informed decision thats suitable according to him.

Its should also be noted that even stopping at the second stop (compound actions without meaning) its possible to make 'mobprogs' which is really as far as most MUDs take their AI.

But yes - I know. Tough. Thats alot of programming, and alot of fiddling with variables until you get the result you expected, and alot of simple DESIGN - next to the infinite number of abstractions a human is capable of, how many must a mob have preprogrammed before he is believable?
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Alexander Tau



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2006 2:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just for comparision I will explain my approach to AI-driven NPCs.

What I have done in the past, and am doing a new generation of right now, is to try and create NPCs which simulate basic living people. Rather than going for a lot of complex abstractions mine run off of a set of Needs that are scheduled along a normal daily schedule.

Eat, Drink, Talk, Train, Task, Sit, Play & Sleep

The NPCs really need to do these things, not being able to eat or drink for an extended period will kill them for example.

What I have never really done all that well in the past is interactive dialogue with meaningful content. So that is one thing I am going to concentrate on this time.

Back to your concepts...

You are going to need to really detail your game as a whole, and find ways to explain each aspect of the game to the NPCs. A lot of stuff is really easy to do, but some is quite the opposite.

Quote:

next to the infinite number of abstractions a human is capable of, how many must a mob have preprogrammed before he is believable?


A staggering number really.


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Ashon



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why not use a different Mechanic for wealth?

I think it was the TSR Amazing! RPG that used a system, where you simply had a wealth rating.

All purchasables had a wealth rating also. Anything that has a wealth rating: 1 below, the players, depletes 1 point from the players wealth rating. Anything 2 and below does not, anything 1 above depletes two wealth levels, etc, etc.

Creatures/Objectives had a wealth rating. If it was at or below the players wealth rating it had no affect, but if it was above the players wealth rating it had an effect.

A system like this should be easily implemented into a game, making most items that are gained from grinding worthless, and keeps players from worrying overly about how many coins they have.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ashon wrote:
I think it was the TSR Amazing! RPG that used a system, where you simply had a wealth rating.

All purchasables had a wealth rating also. Anything that has a wealth rating: 1 below, the players, depletes 1 point from the players wealth rating. Anything 2 and below does not, anything 1 above depletes two wealth levels, etc, etc.


The World of Darkness roleplaying system uses something pretty similar, and it works out quite well. I'm not sure how viable it would be for a mud, though - in a roleplaying game the GM can always step in if someone takes it too far, but the same isn't going to be the case in a mud. I can see the requests now..."anyone with wealth 5+ available to grab me a warhorse?". It'd also kill the concept of trading.

I've recently been toying with the opposite extreme (as a concept - I doubt I'd ever implement it); each character earns money from various sources, and can use it to buy and sell between themselves. However the value of each item is fixed, and the only way it can be transferred between characters is by selling it. No longer could powerful players simply give cash to their friends - you'd have to earn everything yourself, or buy it using cash you'd earned from another activity.

Another thing I've considered, based loosely on Vampire the Masquerade, is the concept of 'boons' as a currency (I partially implemented this on an old mud, but never finished it off). The idea is that you could perform services for people in return for favours, which can be called in at a later date. The levels of favour are "trivial boon", "minor boon", "major boon", "blood boon" and "life boon", and when called in you'd have little choice but to agree (either it would have a hugely negative impact on your reputation, if such a system were in place, or the oaths could have some magical reason for being unbreakable). In addition, while someone owed you a favour they'd also be unable to perform certain degrees of negative action against you - someone owing you a blood boon, for example, couldn't attack you, while someone who owed you a life boon would have to throw themselves in the way if they saw you being attacked (although if successful in saving your life, the boon would be repayed).
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Kjartan



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
I've recently been toying with the opposite extreme (as a concept - I doubt I'd ever implement it); each character earns money from various sources, and can use it to buy and sell between themselves. However the value of each item is fixed, and the only way it can be transferred between characters is by selling it. No longer could powerful players simply give cash to their friends - you'd have to earn everything yourself, or buy it using cash you'd earned from another activity.


Or allow a certain amount to be transferred (like the IRS here in the states) so that you can give some poor newbie alms to buy bread, but you can't fit him out with a full set of armor.

D20 Modern uses a credit rating system that sounds similar to those. I hate it; I always LIKED keeping track of the amount of money I had and parcelling it out for equipment and such in a tabletop RPG. Also, adding die rolls to your equipment shopping is for some reason extremely annoying to me. (I don't mean reaction rolls to see if this is 25% extra or 25% off, these die rolls have huge effects, meaning that on a good roll you can buy something an order of magnitude or more more expansive than you can on a bad roll.)

And what REALLY annoys me is that when they made the new Gamma World, they based it on D20 Modern so they kept the bizarre credit rating system. When the revolution comes, there will be no credit!
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